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HomeUncategorizedSaudi Arabia’s contribution to UNHCR’s programs has provided assistance for refugees

Saudi Arabia’s contribution to UNHCR’s programs has provided assistance for refugees

Sun, 2021-05-30 23:28

JEDDAH: The number of displaced people has nearly doubled in the past decade, from 41 million to 80 million, and with this ever-rising demand, support is always needed.

Halfway through the year, the world’s most vulnerable faced an even greater challenge with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, increasing their already stressful displacement, making it more difficult to find jobs and protect themselves and families from the coronavirus and other risks.
Appeals for greater global solidarity to confront the mounting crisis have not fallen on deaf ears. Informed by Islamic teachings and culture, Saudi Arabia has played a historic role in helping those in need — not only domestically but externally — by partnering with global initiatives and relevant bodies to provide assistance.
The regional representative of the United Nations High Commission for Refugees to the countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council, Khaled Khalifa, told Arab News that through innovative solutions, and collaborative and unified efforts with international and regional partners, the situation could be improved but “we can’t do it alone.”
“The Saudi government is a strategic partner to the UNHCR. We’re hosted in Saudi Arabia, we’ve had a regional office for the last 30 years that covers the six GCC countries,” Khalifa said. “Contributions from the Saudi government have exceeded $300 million during the last 10 years.”
Saudi Arabia’s support for refugees goes back decades. It has been a key donor to refugee relief programs, supporting UNHCR programs and responding to emergencies while helping development programs and initiatives over the long run. More than $300 million has been donated over the span of 10 years and with the help of the King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center (KSRelief), agencies were able to provide assistance and provisions.
Other important contributors include the Saudi Fund for Development, which has donated more than $65 million since the fund’s establishment in 2010, as well as the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Interior.
According to the UNHCR, as of late 2020 there were more than 80 million refugees and internally displaced people (IDPs) around the world: 45.7 million IDPs, 26.3 million refugees, 4.2 million asylum seekers, as well as 3.6 million Venezuelans displaced abroad. That number is rising due to internal conflicts.

Contributions from the Saudi government have exceeded $300 million during the last ten years.

Khaled Khalifa, The regional representative of the United Nations High Commission for Refugees to the GCC countries.

“We cannot respond alone to the challenges associated with the increasing number of displaced people worldwide, which amounts to 1 percent of the global population. I appeal to partners from the public and private sector for their support,” Khalifa said. “We need as much support as we can get to respond to the huge caseloads we have and attend to the needs of the displaced. We need innovative solutions more than ever.”
With the help of NGOs, the public and private sector, more than 17,000 of the UNHCR’s aid workers can provide assistance to beneficiaries quickly, improving the accuracy of the data collected and managing aid recipients’ information. But with the pressure created by the continuous rise in the number of refugees and displaced people, the onset of the pandemic added to the challenge.
The fate of refugees and displaced people is hanging by a thread as their health continues to be the subject of discussion and close observation a year after the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has infected more than 170 million people worldwide and caused more than 3.5 million deaths.
On average, and due to the protracted nature of displacement, people spend 17 to 25 years in displacement. Some refugees have been displaced for more than four decades; there are Afghan refugees living in Pakistan and Iran, Palestinian refugees in Syria, Jordan, Lebanon and the occupied territory, Somali refugees in Kenya. The majority of refugees are found in developing countries.
A total of 86 percent of refugees and IDPs are hosted in developing countries, 67 percent of which originate from just five countries, with Syrians topping the list with 6.6 million.

In many countries around the world children cannot access education ‘if they are not legal residents.’ (Reuters)

As the Syrian conflict enters its 11th year, by 2015 Saudi Arabia had received more than 2.5 million Syrians. As one of the largest providers of aid to the Syrian people and to ensure their dignity and safety, the Kingdom does not recognize them as refugees. Syrians in the Kingdom have been given legal residency status, free healthcare, and they attend schools and universities and participate in the labor market.
More than 100,000 Syrian students have been accepted into the public school system. This was mandated by a royal decree in 2012 that instructed public schools to accept them.
“Despite the importance of education, in many countries around the world children cannot access education if they are not legal residents. Many of the children under our mandate are separated or unaccompanied minors. While we do our best to attend to their needs, including providing them with psychosocial support, it is not enough. They need access to education and psychosocial support and more. Education is a right, and at times it is a life-saving metric,” Khalifa said.
One of the UNHCR’s biggest successes is its Refugee Zakat Fund, and though Khalifa has had more than 20 years of experience in relief and development, he has led the agency’s Islamic philanthropy activities globally.
Zakat, a form of charity or tax collected from Muslims whose wealth is at or above a certain threshold, are called to donate a portion of that wealth, taken from specific sources such as savings, stocks and other assets. The Refugee Zakat Fund goes to support the UNHCR’s cash assistance program: 100 percent of the notations are provided to refugee families covering basic needs that include food, shelter, water and medicine.
“If you pay a thousand dollars, for example, we will pay 100 dollars to ensure the amount is fully received. This is an opportunity for zakat donors to maximize the impact of their contributions. As far as I know, this is the only program where the United Nations partners with individual donors worldwide and covers the overhead fees in order to maximize the impact of the program,” Khalifa said.
According to Khalifa, more than 1 million beneficiaries in eight countries have benefitted from donations in 2019.
In 2020, it increased by 12.5 percent, benefitting 2.1 million refugees and IDPs in need of assistance in 13 countries.
“Financial assistance ‘cash distribution’ is the best way to protect the dignity of refugees and the displaced by allowing them to decide their own needs, and who better to do so than them. For some it may be food, for others it may be an emergency surgery, or school fees. Distributing cash to people protects their dignity and at the same time generates movement in the local market; it is an immediate way of making a difference,” Khalifa said.
“Thanks to donations and contributions we see a real difference in people’s lives, and success stories from time to time. However, until many countries including Syria, Yemen, Afghanistan reach a peaceful state and until the root causes are addressed, we will continue to see refugees struggle. There is hope but it will take time,” he said.

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